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Putinism is the political system of Russia formed during the leadership of Vladimir Putin, hence the name. It is characterized by the concentration of political and financial powers by "siloviks" — current and former "people with shoulder marks", coming from overall 22 governmental enforcement agencies, the main of them being FSB, Police, Army. [1] [2] [3][4] [5]. According to columnist Arnold Beichman, "Putinism in the 21st century has become as significant a watchword as Stalinism was in the 20th" [6]

The "checkist takeover" of the Russian state and economic assets has been allegedly accomplished by a clique of Putin's close associates and friends [7] who gradually became a leading group of Russian oligarchs and who "seized control over the financial, media and administrative resources of the Russian state" [8] and restricted democratic freedoms and human rights. According to some scholars, Russia has been transformed to "FSB state" [9] [10]. Putin himself admitted that "there is no such thing as a former KGB man" [11] and that "a group of FSB colleagues dispatched to work undercover in the government has successfully completed its first mission." [12].


Sociologists, economists and politologists emphazise different features of the system.

Sociological studies[edit]

Sociological investigation unveiling the phenomena was done in 2004 by Olga Kryshtanovskaya, who has determined the portion of siloviks in Russian political elite as 25%. [1] In Putin's "inner circle" which constitutes about 20 people, amount of siloviks rises to 58%, and fades to 18–20% in Parliament and 34% in the Government. [1] According to Kryshtanovskaya, there was no capture of power as Kremlin bureocracy has called siloviks in order to "restore order". The process of siloviks coming into power has allegedly started since 1996, Boris Yeltsin's second term. "Not personally Yeltsin, but the whole elite wished to stop the revolutionary process and consolidate the power." When silovik Vladimir Putin was appointed Prime Minister in 1999, the process boosted. According to Olga, "Yes, Putin has brought siloviks with him. But that's not enough to understand the situation. Here's also an objective aspect: the whole political class wished them to come. They were called for service... There was a need of a strong arm, capable from point of view of the elite to establish order in the country." [1]

Kryshtanovskaya has also noted that there were people who had worked in structures "affiliated" with KGB/FSB. Structures usually considered as such are the Soviet Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Governmental Communications Commission, Ministry of Foreign Trade, Press Agency News and others. "The itself work in such agencies doesn't involve necessary contacts with special services, but makes to think about it." [13] Summing up numbers of official and "affiliated" siloviks she got an estimate of 77% of such in the power. [1]

Intelligence state[edit]

According to former Securitate general Ion Mihai Pacepa, "In the Soviet Union, the KGB was a state within a state. Now former KGB officers are running the state. They have custody of the country’s 6,000 nuclear weapons, entrusted to the KGB in the 1950s, and they now also manage the strategic oil industry renationalized by Putin. The KGB successor, rechristened FSB, still has the right to electronically monitor the population, control political groups, search homes and businesses, infiltrate the federal government, create its own front enterprises, investigate cases, and run its own prison system. The Soviet Union had one KGB officer for every 428 citizens. Putin’s Russia has one FSB-ist for every 297 citizens." [14] [15]

"Under Russian Federation President and former career foreign intelligence officer Vladimir Putin, an "FSB State" composed of chekists has been established and is consolidating its hold on the country. Its closest partners are organized criminals. In a world marked by a globalized economy and information infrastructure, and with transnational terrorism groups utilizing all available means to achieve their goals and further their interests, Russian intelligence collaboration with these elements is potentially disastrous.", said politologist Julie Anderson [9]

Former KGB officer Konstantin Preobrazhenskiy shares similar ideas. When asked "How many people in Russia work in FSB?", he replied: "Whole country. FSB owns everything, including Russian Army and even own Church, the Russian Orthodox Church ... Putin managed to create new social system in Russia" [16].

"Vladimir Putin's Russia is a new phenomenon in Europe: a state defined and dominated by former and active-duty security and intelligence officers. Not even fascist Italy, Nazi Germany, or the Soviet Union – all undoubtedly much worse creations than Russia – were as top-heavy with intelligence talent", said intelligence expert Marc Gerecht [17]


Some economists consider the political system in Russia as a variety of corporatism. According to Andrei Illarionov, a former advisor of Vladimir Putin, this is a new socio-political order, "distinct from any seen in our country before". He said that members of the Corporation of Intelligence Service Collaborators took over the entire body of state power, follow an omerta-like behavior code, and "are given instruments conferring power over others – membership “perks”, such as the right to carry and use weapons". According to Illarionov, this "Corporation has seized key government agencies – the Tax Service, Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Parliament, and the government-controlled mass media – which are now used to advance the interests of [Corporation] members. Through these agencies, every significant resource of the country – security/intelligence, political, economic, informational and financial – is being monopolized in the hands of Corporation members" [18]

Members of the Corporation created an isolated caste. A former KGB general said that “A Chekist is a breed... A good KGB heritage—a father or grandfather, say, who worked for the service—is highly valued by today's siloviki. Marriages between siloviki clans are also encouraged [19].

Single-party bureaucratic state[edit]

Russian politician Boris Nemtsov and commentator Kara-Murza define Putinism in Russia as "a one party system, censorship, a puppet parliament, ending of an independent judiciary, firm centralization of power and finances, and hypertrophied role of special services and bureaucracy, in particular in relation to business" [20]

State gangsterism[edit]

Political analyst Andrei Piontkovsky considers Putinism as "the highest and culminating stage of bandit capitalism in Russia” [21]. He believes that "Russia is not corrupt. Corruption is what happens in all countries when businessmen offer officials large bribes for favors. Today’s Russia is unique. The businessmen, the politicians, and the bureaucrats are the same people. They have privatized the country’s wealth and taken control of its financial flows." [22]

Such views are also shared by politologist Julie Anderson who said the same person can be a Russian intelligence officer, an organized criminal, and a businessman [9]. She also cited former CIA director James Woolsey who said: "I have been particularly concerned for some years, beginning during my tenure, with the interpenetration of Russian organized crime, Russian intelligence and law enforcement, and Russian business. I have often illustrated this point with the following hypothetical: If you should chance to strike up a conversation with an articulate, English-speaking Russian in, say, the restaurant of one of the luxury hotels along Lake Geneva, and he is wearing a $3,000 suit and a pair of Gucci loafers, and he tells you that he is an executive of a Russian trading company and wants to talk to you about a joint venture, then there are four possibilities. He may be what he says he is. He may be a Russian intelligence officer working under commercial cover. He may be part of a Russian organized crime group. But the really interesting possibility is that he may be all three and that none of those three institutions have any problem with the arrangement." [23]

According to politologist Glinsky, "The idea of Russia, Inc.--or better, Russia, Ltd.--derives from the Russian brand of libertarian anarchism viewing the state as just another private armed gang claiming special rights on the basis of its unusual power." "This is a state conceived as a "stationary bandit" imposing stability by eliminating the roving bandits of the previous era.", he said. [7]

In April 2006, Putin himself expressed extreme irritation about the de-facto privatization of the customs sphere, where smart officials and entrepreneurs "merged in ecstasy" (Moscow News, April 21).[24]


Some observers discuss ideology of new Russian political elite. Politologist Irina Pavlova said that chekists are not merely a corporation of people united to expropriate financial assets. They have long-standing political objectives of transforming Moscow to the Third Rome and ideology of "containing" the United States [25] Columnist George Will emphasized the nationalistic nature of Putinism. He said that "Putinism is becoming a toxic brew of nationalism directed against neighboring nations, and populist envy, backed by assaults of state power, directed against private wealth. Putinism is a national socialism without the demonic element of its pioneer..." [26]. According to Illarionov, the ideology of chekists is Nashism (“ours-ism”), the selective application of rights". [18]


  1. ^ a b c d e Mission "intrusion" is complete! by Olga Kryshtanovskaya, 2004, Novaya Gazeta (in Russian)
  2. ^ From Communism to Putinism, by Richard Rahn, The Brussels Journal, 2007-09-21
  3. ^ Russia: Putin May Go, But Can 'Putinism' Survive?, By Brian Whitmore, RFE/RL, August 29, 2007
  4. ^ The Perils of Putinism, By Arnold Beichman, Washington Times, February 11, 2007
  5. ^ Putinism On the March, by George F. Will, Washington Post, November 30, 2004
  6. ^ [1].
  7. ^ a b The Essence of Putinism: The Strengthening of the Privatized State by Dmitri Glinski Vassiliev, Center for Strategic and International Studies, November 2000
  8. ^ What is ‘Putinism’?, by Andranik Migranyan, Russia in Global affairs, 13 April, 2004
  9. ^ a b c The Chekist Takeover of the Russian State, Anderson, Julie (2006), International Journal of Intelligence and Counter-Intelligence, 19:2, 237 – 288.
  10. ^ The HUMINT Offensive from Putin's Chekist State Anderson, Julie (2007), International Journal of Intelligence and Counter-Intelligence, 20:2, 258 – 316
  11. ^ A Chill in the Moscow Air – by Owen Matthews and Anna Nemtsova – Newsweek International, Feb. 6, 2006
  12. ^ The KGB Rises Again in Russia – by R.C. Paddock – Los Angeles Times, January 12, 2000
  13. ^ Fradkov: jacket over straps, by Olga Kryshtanovskaya, 2004 (in Russian)
  14. ^ Symposium: When an Evil Empire Returns, interview with Ion Mihai Pacepa, R. James Woolsey, Jr., Yuri Yarim-Agaev, and Lt. Gen. Tom McInerney, FrontPageMagazine.com, June 23, 2006.
  15. ^ The Kremlin’s Killing Ways – by Ion Mihai Pacepa, National Review Online, November 28, 2006
  16. ^ http://www.voanews.com/russian/archive/2007-02/2007-02-02-voa3.cfm
  17. ^ A Rogue Intelligence State? Why Europe and America Cannot Ignore Russia By Reuel Marc Gerecht
  18. ^ a b Andrei Illarionov: Approaching Zimbabwe (Russian) Partial English translation
  19. ^ Russia under Putin. The making of a neo-KGB state., The Economist, Aug 23, 2007
  20. ^ Russia After The Presidential Election by Mark A. Smith Conflict Studies Research Centre
  21. ^ Putinism: highest stage of robber capitalism, by Andrei Piontkovsky, The Russia Journal, February 7-13, 2000. The title is an allusion to work "Imperialism as the last and culminating stage of capitalism" by Vladimir Lenin
  22. ^ Review of Andrei's Pionkovsky's Another Look Into Putin's Soul by the Honorable Rodric Braithwaite, Hoover Institute
  23. ^ (Congressional Statement of R. James Woolsey, Former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, 21 September 1999, Hearing on the Bank of New York and Russian Money Laundering)
  24. ^ Pavel K. Baev. Putin's fight agains corruption resembles matryoshka doll
  25. ^ Badly informed optimists, by Irina Pavlova, grani.ru
  26. ^ http://www.jewishworldreview.com/cols/will121503.asp

Further reading[edit]